Prentice H. Polk was one of the most influential photographers of his time. Much of Polk’s work was centered around Tuskegee Institute, and celebrated family life, famous national and local individuals, and specific events occurring on campus. Recently, Polk’s family donated to Tuskegee University the photographer’s personal collection, including the copyright for more than 3,800 of his images.
Polk enrolled at what was then the Tuskegee Institute in the early 1920s but because Tuskegee did not offer a program in photography at that time, Polk left the university to study photography in Chicago. In 1927, Polk returned to Tuskegee to open his first studio. And he accepted a faculty position in the institute’s new photography department. He was appointed the school’s official photographer in 1929, and later served as head of the photography department from 1933 to 1938.
Tuskegee University archivist Dana Chandler notes that “the majority of the photos we received had never been seen before, outside of his family. This collection represents some of the finest black-and-white images ever produced — by arguably the greatest African-American photographer.”